Image Vs. Virtue: A Political Roundabout
“While politics isn’t especially fashionable, I’d argue that fashion always has a part to play in the political arena. Appearance is your first impression.” - Alexander Fury of the Independent
Whilst the quest to find a new labour leader is well underway, we want to talk frankly about the candidates, their senses of style, and images. We unpicked their personal style and discovered a lot about what their physical appearance really says about their political motifs.
First up is Andy Burnham. Suited and booted, says he’ll “widen Labour’s appeal by taking the party out of the ‘Westminster Bubble’, with a vision to helping ‘everyone get on in life.’”
Out of the four candidates, Andy is the Polished Politician. He definitely upholds the statistic that polished men *get further in life. For a man, a suit is a personal statement; and after Suits, we learned just how important (and/or drool-worthy) a man’s suit actually is to go about his business.
Harvey from suits
Harvey from suits
Also after Miliband donned Spencer Hart suits, and David Cameron’s Richard James suits, it seems logical that Andy gained popularity with a tailored demeanor. Yet how can he boast about exiting the Westminster Bubble when he’s wearing a hand-tailored suit?
Next up is Liz Kendall. She acknowledges she’s an ‘outside candidate’ and wants to regain the public’s trust by protecting the ‘poor and vulnerable.’ With her power-suiting person, Liz is the Queen of the Resting Bitchface Politician. “I don’t want to protest. I want to get into power,” she declares. Her style has a regal tinge, and is reflective of Kate Middleton’s. Yet, can a stiletto wearing, pink blazer wearing woman embody the policies that the Labour party identifies with any better than Burnham?
Now onto Yvette Cooper.
Cooper, a fighter against passport delays, border controls, and issues of a less divided society, has a classically angelic face. Meet: The Model Politician.
Her doe-eyed façade and adorable pixie cut have shaped her right into the perfect editorial subject. From fashion followers everywhere, she’s gained a reputation of having ‘the look.’ Though she might be a role model for female politicians, her ‘classically British’ look has caused both her face and her following to go soft.
Last but not least, we have Jeremy Corbyn, The Hipster.
A columnist for the Morning Star and a veteran, Jeremy Corbyn is looking in a different direction to his competition. With his beard and lax attire, he vouches to promise to raise taxes on the rich, scrap tuition fees in England and enforce socialist policies.
Do you think Jeremy will scrape by with the hair of his chin?
However, despite the four candidates having completely different aesthetics or style, they all give off an image that is (understatedly) one of the biggest factors in electoral results. In American politics especially, image is extremely crucial - and can even win you an election.
A study proves that the better looking candidate (which is largely based on attire) will always win in an election. This scrutiny, praise, or fashion upheaval towards politicians is played with in the media, engaging followers of fashion to look at politics, but for the wrong reasons.
But by UK political standards, politicians do not seem to care much about fashion, rather about image (as we’ve just discussed) which is highly commendable when considering what their main objectives are. However, the sad reality is that it pulls more weight than they realise...
With Andy Burnham’s savvy suits, Yvette Cooper’s feminist persona and natural beauty, Liz Kendall’s no bullshit attitude and classic style, and Jeremy Corbyn’s science teacher ethos and full fledged beard, these candidates have been in publications from Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, to GQ, and The Independent’s Fashion Sector.
Andy wears Armani suits, but fights with a socialist glove in the ring. Much to his dismay, his tailored suits are tailoring his supporters. Yvette Cooper’s natural beauty and sophisticated style might give her a sense of female authority, but her trending look also sparked Vogue UK Editor, Alexandra Shulman, to gush how she’d love to put her in glossy pages - which would completely change her image. Liz Kendall’s power-suiting style, that’s said to mimic the regal Kate Middleton’s, has (unprecedentedly) labelled her as a ‘hardcore female’ (to put that nicely). And lastly, there is Jeremy Corbyn, whose “abysmal style” has resulted in the reciprocal effect, where publications and fashion commentators are even more intrigued with his style habits. Additionally, his beard has caused quite a stir, even if he’s trying to take a low-key approach to appearance, causing stylists to call him a ‘hipster,’’sexy,’ and ‘a geography teacher.
Sometimes that image can overtake what a candidate stands for, though. For years, we’ve seen articles seeking out women’s looks and attire as their only point of worth; and it’s now become even more apparent to consider gender as a whole and how a man or a woman comes across when he or she is ‘branding’ him or herself. With that said, some of the largest impacting factors in sculpting one’s image are sometimes not even choices.
In the United States, it was a true honour to hear they’d finally broken the racial barriers with Obama; but the hardest question to ask was, did he win because of his appearance? This question is the one that no one wants to face and he has done an incredible job, regardless of his skin colour or overall image; but image holds a lot of swing in American polls…
With Hillary Clinton as the first potential female president, we (unfortunately) have to ask ourselves the same question: Will she win America's hearts because she’s a woman? How has her style evolved and did it help her gain popularity? We hope that a potential victory results from that fact that she’s a damn capable human being...
Looking to American politics, from campaign adverts to political appearances, it’s nearly a Hollywood production, though; and luckily, our candidates are a bit less artificial, though we do see some of the same factors in the polls over here.
Regardless of Obama’s skin colour, Hillary’s gender, Corbyn’s ‘abysmal style’, Cooper’s modelesque face, or Burnham’s ‘dreamy eyes’, the weight of appearance vs. virtue is still in question. Though we see these concepts of appearance to a lesser degree in British politics, and mainly expressed through scrutinising a candidate’s attire, we still have to consider the politics their appearance makes. With a field that (intentionally or ‘unintentionally’) tries to curate their appearances, how have their physical impressions branded what they stand for and shaped their political careers?